It is as if every brand and PR agency wants to work with bloggers but no one has any method to the madness. It is still a nascent thing in India, this “blogging”, but it has been around for over a decade now. One would think there would be some standards, a set of questions perhaps – to determine what blogs suit what brands – but no. Nothing.

I don’t even like calling myself a “blogger” because it seems to be an overly abused word associated with “college kids who do ‘timepass’ on the internet with a free domain”. That sounds utterly unprofessional and professional blogging is anything but. Yes, I do get paid to blog ( always include a disclaimer ), which is why I say “professional” blogger.

The fact that I’m also a professional photographer makes things even more complicated for prospective clients wanting to work for me. “Do we hire her for photography or should we invite her to our event in the hope that she will ‘cover’ it on her blog?” “Can we invite her to the event that has free alcohol and food and we’re sure she’ll bring her camera and then she can give us the images?” “We have a budget of X and we want her to write about our brand on her blog, but we don’t want anyone to know we paid her for it.”

I’m not going to generalize how ALL bloggers work. I will try to write about how I work and how I prefer to work and what a typical prospective client can expect. This will be a series of posts / article and I will update with links to previous points as I publish new ones.

First things first, please don’t equate print publication journalists to online / internet bloggers.

To put it simply, print publication journalists draw a salary, independent bloggers don’t. So while it might be your “company policy” to not pay for media coverage in cash, that policy is traditionally built around print / TV media. Bloggers are a whole different ball game. Abroad, some very popular bloggers get paid to attend events. While this is not the case in India yet ( not that I know of for sure anyway ), I do see it as a possibility.

As an example, a magazine’s fashion features writer / editor is invited to an event by a brand and they attend or send their junior writer to attend depending on how much that brand spends on advertising in their magazine. It’s a relationship thing AND a money thing. As a blogger, I’d like to build relationships too but I’m not getting paid a salary, so please appreciate the effort for what it is. I want to do exciting work but I want to show revenues and profits for doing it.

Small expenses add up : cost of time on phone conversations, cost of time spent on email ( where a blogger has to explain in detail how the prospective client might better deal with them for a win-win transaction and not bite eachother’s heads off. ), cost of a cab to attend an event / press day / launch party / after party / fashion show, cost of time spent on photography, cost of time spent on editing those photos, cost of time spent on composing a blog post / tweeting / Instagramming / Pinteresting / Facebooking, and some bloggers have interns and WE pay salaries TO THEM.

But these “costs” are not why you should pay a blogger – pay them because they bring solid value to the table.

Blogging is a different media category and we expect to be treated differently.

This is the first part in a series of “How To Work With Bloggers”. Please do add your comments / suggestions / ideas in the comments section – if you, as a PR Agency / Prospective client would like some specific questions answered or if you’re a blogger and have something you’d like PR Agencies / Prospective clients to know.

The entire “How To Work With Bloggers” series.

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  1. As a blogger I so agree with the points you have made. Some agencies just dont pay up even after agreeing to pay you. Like airport to-fro charges which come up to a few thousands. We dont get paid that we can just ignore it. Moreover they try luring us with free beer, free food which is an extremely pissing off attitude. And then there are certain brands who go that extra step by making sure everything is fine. Thats where relationships are made. I hope all the PR guys, brands get to read this. Sharing it everywhere on my SNS

  2. Well writ. There’s a lot to explore in Blogging and a few countries deal with bloggers differently as compared to India. What’s disappointing is that, companies/brands have this image that bloggers can be paid with food and drinks; which is extremely disgusting. There are companies/brands that many bloggers are willing to work and collaborate for free just for the good-will, however, that is not how some see.
    There is also this perception that Blogging in field specific, and Bloggers who blog about certain topics such as Travel or Lifestyle shouldn’t cover other topics such as Tech or Food. Perhaps, companies/brands should value and learn that “blogging is a different media category”.
    Looking forward to read more on this series.

  3. Hi Prateek, Thank you for sharing the article – there are more I’m going to be writing and publishing. On your point about not being paid even after agreement, I would strongly advise on using an invoice and written agreement – it doesn’t have to be a printed / hard copy, a PDF invoice with an written acknowledgement and agreement on email in response will work in the court of law. And of course, work with a lawyer friend who is used to dealing with such cases. This is an important part of being professional and you will be recognized as one as word gets out that you mean business.

    On the second issue of “they try to lure us”, well, “they” can “try” but it is up to a professional blogger to decide what works for them and what doesn’t. There’s nothing right or wrong here, it’s a new thing, this “blogging” and we are all trying to figure it out together. Making it into an us vs. “them” thing will not be beneficial for anyone. One of the biggest issues that create confusion is that neither party “decides”. It’s always a game of “how much can we squeeze from this”, which only leads to bitterness at both ends. On the other hand, if your expectations are set ( with a little margin for negotiation or not, depending ) and you are able to convey those expectations to the PR agency / prospective clients, then they are in a better position to accept / turn it down.

    Trouble is, too many of us are scared of being turned down, which is why we never set out our expectations and hence all this confusion.

    I do feel bad for some of my favorite PR agencies though – because I know they really fight for us bloggers – but at the end of the day, the final decision is up to the brand, which is the PR Agency’s client.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts – because of which I now have an idea for a new article about this subject!

  4. Thank you Dayle! I am looking forward to sharing more as well – if there’s something in particular you would like me to write about, do tell! Cheers!

  5. Hi Ajan, Thank you for sharing your views!
    It is a little unsettling – to me – to read that India treats bloggers differently. I wish it wasn’t so. And it isn’t about just bloggers, it is about the culture of professionalism. When we can’t even be punctual, it leaves me with very little hope about professionalism in a field as unorganized as blogging.

    I’ve been paid in food and drink too. Especially during the early days. In the early days, I was thrilled to even be considered / invited, and so I went. I wasn’t looking at it as work then. But now I am. I respond to at least 2 emails each day, which involve a potential story on my blog for a brand / PR Agency. It has turned into a time-consumig job and now I would like to get paid for it. And I’d like to have the freedom to decide which gigs I want to do and which I don’t. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve heard, “Screw the food, just pay me and I’ll buy my own food. Thanks.”

    I’m undecided on how to approach the “blogger category” subject. For example, I blog about anything / everything but I prefer to cover stories on the lifestyle / luxury space, which is why the “Le Raconteuse Visuelle for Luxury Brands”. But I also share stories of my travel, family dinners, pets, restaurant reviews, book reviews, etc. Because regardless of what blogging category is HOT, the blog is a representation of who I am and I am a whole person that does a lot of things. This should be perfect for potential client brands because even if it’s a small brand that no one knows about in the tech space for example, my doing a story on it would mean that it reaches a very different audience.

    On the other hand, if I were to publish only those stories that only cater to lifestyle / luxury, I might have a dedicated blog in that space but it seems unnatural to me. Too engineered. At least my blog was, is and always will be about things I like to do. I’ve tried creating different, separate blogs for different separate subjects but not only is that too much unnecessary hard work, it’s also stupid.

    Hmmm. Interesting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me and making me think even more! I appreciate it.

  6. Hi Naina,

    Does you blog cover innovative fashion start ups with trendy outfits and accessories that cater to online customers?


  7. Naina,

    We have interacted a bit, if I recall. A lovely article and so required. Unfortunately for every one professional, there are numerous ‘professionals’ who run a business out of these freebies.

    I had written twice and But the PR agencies seem to tar everybody with the same brush 🙂

    In spite of not being a professional blogger or maybe because not being one, I am offered a meal or 500/- voucher to blog. *Sigh* #BrandValuationKiMaaKiAankh.

    Keep writing…

    1. Hey Anaggh, Who doesn’t know “God” 😛 Isn’t that what you’re referred to by your fans on Twitter 😀 Hehehe. True about being broad-brushed but like all things, setting a reputation takes time too. The more PR agencies I interact with, the more people know about how I work. I’m not here to educate everyone and I’m certain my “How To Work With Bloggers” posts are flawed as well – primarily because they are one-sided – but I’m happy to contribute to the conversation. The more we talk about it, the higher the chances of “some” form of standardization.

      One of the issues in my opinion is that the brand does not directly interact with “influencers”. This is usually done by the agency & from what I have experienced, the agency is not in it for the long haul. When it’s a short-term engagement, preference is given to the number of people invited / emailed rather than the quality of content produced. Agencies are terrified of telling their clients that a blogger needs to be paid. Asking to be paid is not culturally acceptable for most Indians. We are conditioned to feel ashamed. ( My opinion / observation. )

      Blogging for me was never the goal. My goal was to do more work I like, as a photographer / storyteller. Blogging is business development. And no I will not do it for free because time & effort from my end provides value to a client / brand / agency & it is a commercial proposal. I guess one needs to figure out what one’s time is worth and then decide accordingly whether a particular engagement / free food is good enough value.

      Thank you for stopping by & the encouragement!

  8. Exactly! Glad someone is finally speaking about these things publically. I feel like PR companies exploit bloggers at the cost of free food. Which is so not cool.

    1. Hi Radhika, thank you for reading and for the comment. I would say that the onus lies on both parties. The reason PR companies or brands continue to expect stories in exchange for “food” is because bloggers continue to give those stories in exchange for “food”. If all bloggers stopped this practice, PR companies and brands will know that the way to do business has changed.

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